It is no novelty that Portugal’s tourism is increasing and becoming an ideal country to visit. Maybe because it has all: a strong and rich history, beautiful beaches, unique art and charisma from the residents. In addition, a trip to Portugal is available at a low price and, regardless of where you are, there will never be a feeling of regret despite the place you chose. So, if you are looking for a place less mainstream to take your significant other, where there is nature, beautiful landscapes, beaches, and wonderfully tasty food, look no further.
To ease things, we will leave the beautiful exotic archipelagos, the Azores and Madeira, outside of this list. They deserve a list of their own since they have lots of singularities and specificities that are unmatched. If you are a nature enthusiast, and you enjoy a horse ride between sleepy volcanos, in tiny insular villages then consider these destinations for the future.
However, if you just decide to go to the ‘continental’ part of the country, renting a car and crossing the Portuguese east coast from north to south, make sure to make a stop in the following 5 places:
A most to visit in Portugal, it is the second largest city in the country after Lisbon and one of the major urban areas of the Iberian Peninsula. Known for its colorful genuine streets, full of personality, it is considered the best European destination and second-best destination worldwide year after year.
Anyone who appreciates a good Porto wine can’t miss the wine piers that are by the river in Gaia, while enjoying a glass near the Douro Valley. There is no shortage of gardens, medieval palaces, and cathedrals. Besides all of this the cuisine is often referred to as the best in the country. Don’t forget to taste the most pleasurable mix of meat inside a beautifully placed sandwich of bread and cheese, topped with a delicious beer-type sauce that is the well-known Francesinha.
Heading to the center, you might definitely want to drop by Coimbra. Hosting the second oldest university in Europe, after Bologna (Italy), the historical center of the city – Alta and Sofia – was recently recognized as UNESCO World Heritage and you will wonder why it took them so long. With the river Mondego passing by, the city has a bittersweet melancholic vibe, surrounded in nostalgia, with students wearing black and white uniforms and performing serenades spontaneously on the street. You may ask yourself if you ended up lost in Hogwarts, since all the environment is indeed quite a magical bubble.
Visit the ‘High’ part of the city, known as Alta, where you will find ancient places for sightseeing over the river, like the ‘Se Velha’ (Old Cathedral), the Joanine Library and the Tower of the University (known as Cabra, ‘Goat’). You can also visit the Quinta das Lagrimas (roughly translated as Farm of Tears), where the tragic story of Pedro and Ines, the Portuguese version of Romeo and Juliet, allegedly took place. Some say Ines blood is still craved in the stone of the fountain… Even if this is all just a silly myth, you surely will impress your companion if you tell her this story.
The town of Sintra is notable for the presence of its romantic architecture, resulting also in its classification as Cultural Landscape of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has refused to be elevated to the category of city, despite being the seat of the second most populous municipality in the country.
A living fairy tale itself, there’s no shortage of inspiration and color. Located approximately 30 kilometers from Lisbon, getting to Sintra is easy and makes a great day trip, though you may prefer two or three days to see everything in more detail. Do not miss the gorgeous Palacio da Pena, Quinta da Regaleira or Cabo da Roca, the most western point of ‘continental’ Europe.
Despite the boom in tourism, the capital of Portugal continues to be a city that can be explored on a low budget and is still one of the most serene and affordable capitals in Europe. Tourists can enter the fado houses, where you can hear (but never clap!) the national Portuguese music, enjoy the famous Pastéis de Nata or try the notorious codfish served dishes.
If you’re not a food lover, there’re also plenty of activities to do in Lisbon, such as visiting iconic landmarks like St. Jorge’s Castle or the 16th-century Jeronimos monastery. Even the Belém Tower is nearby and worth a check for those who want a closer feel to Portugal’s amazing navy empire and conquests throughout centuries.
To finish this top 5 and to conclude a perfect visit to Portugal, don’t miss the chance to visit and relax at the south of Portugal, where you can explore the vast blonde beaches, visit the lively fish markets and discover more historical landmarks.
Lagos is a beautiful city in Algarve that collects all the things people love about the region. Their beaches are long, the sun is often present during most of the year, from long sandy bays to tiny coves walled by ochre-colored cliffs, you just can’t miss one of the best golf opportunities, or if you have a shorter budget try to surf or many other water sports that the city offers.